Advertisement: open in new window
Our research explored government policy in adult social care work. Care worker voices typically have been neglected in existing research. Our analysis drew on 76 interviews with managers and care workers across England. It demonstrates how policy and gender combine to present care workers as low in status and skill, and their resistance to this designation. Main findingsOur research demonstrates that managers see care work as ‘women’s work’, low in status, skill and pay. Care workers’ perspectives are also substantially informed by gender. Policy appears to surface only, for example, in promoting training or in contributing to staffing shortages. They accept that care work will be low paid, but they depict it as women’s work that is worthy of respect, challenging and complex, not work that is low in status, where skills are invisible. Policy implicationsWorkforce development policy attributes poor job quality to lack of skills, placing the onus on individuals to address this via skill development, rather than requiring employers to provide better jobs. More fundamentally, the policy ignores the impact of gender in a highly segregated labour market and ignoring its influence fails to address its implications. Policy and practice are at odds, but there is an opportunity to re-position care work. A professional approach, based on higher levels of training and qualification, could mean the work attracts higher pay; except that powerful stakeholders, such as local authorities and owners/managers, will exert downward pressure on pay. Current policy is, therefore, risky. In a period of rising demand for care, it depends on a supply of poorly educated, low skilled women for whom other opportunities are increasing. This may have serious consequences for the quality of adult social care delivery. Key points:
Carol Atkinson is a senior lecturer in HRM at the University of Bradford School of Management, and Rosemary Lucas is professor of employment relations at MMU Business School
I work in this sector and we are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit at the moment. It is a very rewarding job for the right candidate.